As avid fashion followers we've seen trends go from prime time to fashion crime and back again. Case in point: after the '80s, every fashion-conscious girl hung up her power blazer in favor of the relaxed grunge of the new decade. Fast-forward to 2009 when an army of Balmain models single-handedly brought the bold shoulder back again. The cyclical nature of fashion is so well-documented, it even has an official name--just Google Laver's Law.
One such trend that has followed the typical trajectory is everyone's favorite waist ruffle: the peplum. The resurgent flounce was popular in the '40s when Dior debuted his revolutionary New Look collection featuring the Bar Jacket, which featured excess fabric around the waist--otherwise known as a peplum--that proved a poignant antidote to wartime scarcity in 1947. But post-WWII wasn't the only time the peplum had a renaissance; in the '80s the dramatic flair provided the perfect counterpoint to heavy shoulder pads when it was reincarnated in its highest form (think: Thierry Mugler blazers) and in its lowest (picture Krystal Carrington on Dynasty).
Now a few decades later, the peplum is back, just as Laver would predict! On the S/S 12 runways, it became the silhouette story of the season, and the trend is still going strong, as evidenced by its appearance at the couture shows last month (designer Raf Simons referenced Dior's storied silhouette in his debut collection for the fashion house), as well as at countless F/W 12 shows including Zac Posen and Burberry Prorsum.
Yet despite the peplum's power, many have yet to embrace the look. Something tells me any woman struggles with the idea of adding extra bulk around her midsection. But rather than detracting from your physique, that extra bit of fabric can actually enhance your shape by creating a flattering hourglass silhouette. Trust me--it's all about proportion. Without further ado, here are my top tips for taking the peplum from casual to sophisticated, all while doing wonders for your figure.
Look 1: Casual Day
If the peplum has a single modus operandi, it is to emphasize the feminine form. The look is ultra-structured and ladylike, so it tickles my sartorial fancy to take the trend totally out of its comfort zone. (Don't judge, we get our kicks where we can.) To create a laid-back vibe, I paired a peplum version of a classic button-down with cuffed boyfriend jeans. Since both silhouettes are very relaxed, a pair of smart lace-up oxfords prevents the outfit from looking sloppy while still keeping with the tomboy theme. A leather jacket is always one of my favorite ways to cap off a look, but it works particularly well here because the cropped cut highlights the beginning of the peplum's flare. As for my bag of choice, I have the unfortunate tendency to carry around enough stuff to outfit a small platoon, so my go-to day purse has to be commodious. This zigzag-embellished beauty is big enough to hold everything, and adds a great dose of pattern and color to my neutral outfit.
What I Wore: Tibi Shirting Peplum Top ($220); Citizens of Humanity Dixie High Waist Retro Fit Jeans ($238); AllSaints Cropped Escape Biker Jacket ($435) in Petrol; Loeffler Randall Joanna Oxfords ($350) in Black; Mulberry It's the Zig Zag Lily Shoulder Bag ($2000, Available September); Tory Burch Fox Head Hinge Bracelet ($195).
Look 2: Girls' Night Out
A night out with the girls is my absolute favorite time to let my fashion flag fly. It's all about experimenting with of-the-moment trends, which is why this blazer with a dramatic leather peplum felt perfect for the occasion. My jacket came equipped with a built-in belt, but it's easy to recreate the hourglass silhouette by adding a thin belt at your waist right before the fabric flares out. Normally I would let the statement blazer take the spotlight, but for a night of debauchery you've got to get adventurous--wallflowers need not apply! To step it up a notch, I incorporated a couple of other major fall trends into my outfit: a sheer-paneled top and Baroque-inspired brocade pants (the slim-fitting bottoms are key for playing up the peplum shape). As for my accessories, I know from experience that one misstep in the handbag department can put a damper on the whole night, or at least induce some very awkward purse dancing. I had to choose wisely--absolutely no clutches or top-handles--and thankfully this small, hands-free number in a cheeky leopard print fit the bill.
What I Wore: Zara Peplum Jacket ($160, Available in Stores Now); Topshop Paisley Jacquard Cigarette Trousers ($90, 212.966.9555) in Orange; AllSaints Mesh Tee ($95) in Black; Steve Madden Realove Heels ($100) in Black; Jerome Dreyfuss Jojo Bag ($920, 212.334.6920) in Leopard; In God We Trust Spacer Cuff ($240); Oscar de la Renta Cluster Stone Ring ($245).
Look 3: Cocktail Attire
Any editor worth her salt will tell you that creating a high-impact corporate cocktail outfit is a delicate art. Whether it's drinks with a client or an industry bash, you want to show off your great personal taste while still maintaining professionalism. I normally find a plain pencil-skirt-and-pumps routine a bit tired--that's where the peplum comes into play. My peplum-adorned skirt is immediately more interesting than something without a flared silhouette, plus I opted for velvet over a more utilitarian material. (The material adds a little luxury to my outfit, plus I'm a sucker for soft fabrics.) As for the skirt's shape, I think its elongated peplum also works in my favor--the draped effect is far more sophisticated than a shorter flared version. With my skirt sorted, I added a simple fitted sweater and then it was time to find pitch-perfect accessories. A closed-toe shoe is the most polished option, so these patent, runway-inspired Mary-Jane heels were a no-brainer. After finishing the look with edgy hand jewelry and a snake-embossed clutch (it's best to keep your bag small and structured) I am ready to navigate the fashion social scene with ease.
What I Wore: H&M Fashion Family Collection Burgundy T-Shirt with Metal Detail Collar ($15, Available September 27); H&M Ribbed Black Long Sleeve Shirt with Peek-a-boo Elbows ($50, Available Now); Burberry Velvet Peplum Skirt ($1095); Charles David Scholar Heels ($230, 310.659.7110, Available Now) in Grey Patent; Reiss Carlina Metal Frame Clutch Bag ($115, 212.488.2411): Bing Bang Vivienne Spike Studs ($48) in Sterling Silver; Fallon Bow Handchain Bracelet ($200, Available September) in Gunmetal.
SHOP THE TREND
Since the peplum trend has occupied the fashion conscious for a few seasons, there are an abundance of inspired options on the market from floral printed tops to ladylike blazers and Hepburn-inspired shift dresses. Alice + Olivia Margo Peplum Short Sleeve Tee ($220) in Chelsea Floral Print; Nonoo Peplum Jacket ($695) in Navy; Rebecca Taylor Cotton Tencel Dress ($325).--Kat Collings